Tualatin, with its 92-83 win, advances to play at Sunset on Friday

by: DAN BROOD - WE DID IT -- Tualatin seniors Connor Scott (left) and Randall Tainer celebrate as the final seconds tick away in Tuesday's game at Sheldon.EUGENE — Yes, you could say that Tualatin was the underdog.

And, yes, if you look at various rankings, it’s easy to say that Sheldon should have won handily.

But, the Timberwolves say, don’t you dare call it an upset.

What you can call it is a fast-paced, thrill-packed, intensified victory.

The Tualatin High School basketball team, going blow-for-blow with Sheldon throughout and the sprinting away at the end, moved a step closer to earning a state tournament bid by running to a 92-83 win over the Irish in a Class 6A state playoff first-round game played Tuesday at Sheldon High School.

“This was really nice,” Tualatin senior point guard Scott Allred said after the win. “We don’t think this was an upset. We’re tough to prepare for. It’s hard to adjust to what we do.”

“This was the most memorable game of the season,” said Tualatin senior Connor Scott, who scored a game-high 27 points.

“This was the most memorable game of my life,” Tualatin senior C.J. Mitchell added with a smile.

Southwest Conference champion Sheldon, which held the No. 7 spot in the final OSAA power rankings and was also the No. 6 team in the final Class 6A coaches poll, finished its season with an overall record of 18-7.

Tualatin, which is the No. 27 team in the OSAA power rankings and the No. 3 team out of the Pacific Conference, improved to 16-8 on the season with the postseason victory.

“The kids did a great job,” Tualatin coach Rick Osborn said. “They got banged around, and this was a tough environment to play in, but they really hung in there.”

“We may have been the underdog, but we go into every game expecting to win,” Scott said. “We know there’s no easy way to prepare for us.”

The up-tempo Wolves, who have scored more than 100 points in seven games this season, will next play for a spot in the Class 6A state tournament when they face Sunset on Friday in a Class 6A state playoff second round game set to start at 7 p.m. at Sunset High School.

Sunset, the No. 4 team out of the Metro League, is 15-10 on the season. The Apollos scored a 67-48 win over Thurston at home in their playoff game on Tuesday.

“We’re going to need to do the same thing,” Allred said of Friday’s game at Sunset. “They’re a good team, but we’ll look at some film, work hard to get ready and then go in and give it everything we have.”

That strategy sure seemed to work during Tuesday’s game at Sheldon.

The Irish, behind the play of junior guards Yadie Dunmore and Jordan Alexander, jumped out to a 25-16 lead with 1 minute and 24 seconds left in the first quarter. But Tualatin, with Scott scoring four straight points and with Michael putting in a buzzer-beating layup off an inbounds pass, cut the margin to 27-22 at the end of the period.

Tualatin came out running and gunning to start the second quarter. Michael scored six quick points and sophomore post Jacob Bennett connected on a three-pointer to give the Wolves a 39-31 lead with 3:59 left in the period.

Sheldon came back to tie the game at 45-45 with 38 seconds left in the half, but another Bennett three-pointer gave Tualatin a 48-45 lead at the break.

The back-and-forth contest saw the Irish open a 60-55 lead with 2:37 left in the third quarter. But the Wolves answered back again. Junior guard Joey Fishback sank a 19-foot jumper, senior Junior Okon had a follow-up basket and then a layup and Scott scored four straight points to end the period, giving Tualatin a 67-65 lead going into the fourth quarter.

That’s when things got really interesting.

The teams traded the lead nine times in the first 4:19 of the final stanza, with the Wolves going on top 79-77 after Allred drained a three-pointer from the top of the circle with 3:41 left to play in the contest.

Sheldon tied the game on a layup by senior post Frank Bornstein. A pair of free throws by Michael gave Tualatin an 81-79 lead with 3:00 remaining.

The Irish then got a game-tying alley-oop dunk by Bornstein, firing up the Sheldon crowd — and also igniting the Timberwolves.

“That fired us up,” Scott said.

“That got us mad,” Michael said. “We wanted to take it right back down the court.”

The fired-up Timberwolves answered the dunk with a 5-0 run that included a basket on a drive to the hoop by senior Randall Tainer and free throws by Bennett, Scott and Michael, giving Tualatin an 86-81 lead with 1:14 left to play.

Sheldon cut the margin to 86-83 on a basket by Alexander with 1:02 remaining, but the Irish wouldn’t score again.

Scott sank four straight free throws and Tainer scored on a layup off a pass from Scott to wrap up the Wolves’ 92-83 win.

“We dedicated ourselves to the system,” Allred said. “This is what we do — and we showed up tonight.”

“We felt confident,” Scott said. “We knew we could compete with these guys.”

Scott scored his game-high 27 points on a 7-for-11 shooting night from the field. He also had five rebounds, three assists and a pair of steals.

“Connor played like a first-team all-league player should,” Osborn said. “He’s been our emotional leader all season and he stepped up tonight.”

“Connor was gutsy inside. He did a great job, and so did this guy,” Allred said, as he pointed over toward Bennett.

Scott, despite his high-point performance, insisted the credit should go to everyone.

“This was a great team win,” he said. “I’m proud of how every player did tonight. Everyone did their job. The scout team worked as hard as they could to get us ready.”

Michael scored 16 points in the win, making seven of his 10 shots from the field. Bennett sank three three-point baskets on his way to scoring 10 points. He also pulled down 13 rebounds.

Joey Fishback had nine points. Allred scored eight points while dishing off four assists and coming up with three steals. Tainer scored seven points and junior Taylor Boos added six points.

Tualatin, as a team, made 35 of 70 shots from the field and 15 of 18 free-throw attempts.

Dunmore led Sheldon with 20 points. The Irish made 37 of 72 shots from the field and six of 11 free throws.

The winner of Friday’s game at Sunset will advance to the Class 6A state tournament will meet either Jesuit or Sprague in a tourney quarterfinal game set to start at 8:15 p.m. Wednesday at the Rose Garden.

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